Maybe we can get that Chirac guy to insult us again

It’s only June, and we’ve already been through immigration, flag burning, the estate tax and gay marriage. At the rate we’re going, what’s going to be left for September, October, November?

Published June 7, 2006

SCRABBLE, W.Va. — Political consultants warned Wednesday that the nation faces a critical shortage of demagoguery later this year, given the rapid pace at which America’s elected leaders have been squandering the supply.

“It’s only June, and we’ve already been through immigration, flag burning, the estate tax and gay marriage,” warned Roger Ailment, president of the National Association of Yahoos and Know-Nothings, in the keynote speech of the group’s annual convention.

“At the rate we’re going, what’s going to be left for September, October, November?” Ailment asked. “We run the grave risk that by then, voters might actually start to pay attention to the nation’s problems.

“Do we really want to live in a society where the voters are focused on the national debt, the environment, our Iraq policy, the widening gap between rich and poor, the lack of gain in real wages, government monitoring of everybody’s telephone calls and Web usage, and the implications of the Enron convictions?”

Ailment’s warning was greeted by audible gasps in the audience of nearly 1,000 political consultants and campaign strategists.

However, his grim view was disputed by other experts, who said America has an virtually inexhaustible supply of simplistic issues it can use to whip up voters.

“This is about as fake a worry as global warming. Our research shows that there still are votes to be gained by chanting, “9/11, 9/11,” insisted a rival consultant, Karl Roam.

“Why do you think there was political support for sending antiterrorism money to places like Dubuque instead of New York?’’ Roam asked. “Because terrorists are lurking in every hedge.

“All we have to do is make a scary face and go, 'booga, booga, booga’ and we’ll be okay.’’ Roam pointed out that it was almost time to renew the “orange terror alert” strategy, which has been in disuse since the last election.

Ailment’s assessment also was rejected by Floyd Laffler, president of the National Society for Fooling People Into Thinking They Have to Pay an Estate Tax.

“How will people focus on Medicare Part D or CEO compensation when they’re worried about losing the family farm that they worked so hard to build?’’ Laffler asked during a panel discussion after Ailment’s speech.

When critics pointed out that nobody has to pay the estate tax, that nobody is saving enough to build taxable estates anyway and not that many people even own a family farm anymore, he replied, “You obviously hate America.” He received a standing ovation.

Still, the prospect of a shortage of available topics for would-be demagogues clearly concerned many conventiongoers. The most heavily attended breakout session was that of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on

Sustainable and Renewable Wedge Issues.

The task force recommended several possible topics for use later in the year, including:

While most consultants in attendance at the convention support Republicans, there also was a meeting of the minority Whiny Liberal Caucus, which debated methods of cutting into the Republican lead in the fall elections.

In the end, however, the Democratic caucus rejected a resolution for “talking plainly about why Americans are getting a raw deal” and instead voted for “more pandering to labor unions.’’

It also passed a measure in support of “nominating another dithering, consultant-paralyzed weenie next time.’’The convention was briefly thrown into confusion when, after delegates passed a resolution designating English as the “official convention language” and demanded that illegal immigrants be kicked out of the event, the entire hotel staff and grounds crew disappeared.

When informed that it would require an increase in the minimum wage to replace the workers with Americans, the delegates quickly repealed their earlier policy.